Brett Favre said he’ll be watching Sunday. And rooting.
“I want to see the Vikes win,” the Hall of Famer said via e-mail Friday. “It’s their time.”
Then, to prove that you can indeed teach an old gunslinger new tricks, Favre passed along two thumbs-up emojis to Vikings fans getting set to watch their squad play the Saints in a NFC divisional playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Jan. 24, 2010, was the last time the Vikings and Saints met in the playoffs. You might recall that NFC title game and how the 31-28 overtime loss sucker-punched one of the most magical seasons in franchise history.
It was the 24th and final postseason game of Favre’s 20-year career. Overall, it was the 309th of his 322 NFL starts.
That’s quite a difference from Sunday, when Case Keenum will be making his postseason debut in his 40th overall start.
Never fear, says the fearless Favre.
“Case has done an outstanding job leading his team,” Favre said. “His play certainly speaks for itself. It sounds to me like he carries lots of mental and physical toughness on and off the field, and people notice.”
Playing all but six quarters of a 13-win season, Keenum was aggressive and smart, mostly at the same time. Like Favre during the 2009 regular season, he threw only seven interceptions. Favre had 33 touchdowns in 531 passes, while Keenum has 22 touchdowns in 481 throws.
Of course, Favre did have three of five Vikings turnovers in the loss to the Saints. He fumbled once on an exchange with Adrian Peterson inside the Saints 5-yard line and threw two interceptions, including one in the closing seconds of regulation when the Vikings were in field goal range.
Some argued that Favre had room to run rather than risk that last interception. His agent, Bus Cook, responded by releasing photos of Favre’s badly bruised and swollen ankle and thigh.
Cook and the Vikings were outraged by what they considered unnecessary beatings Favre took. Then-coach Brad Childress said there were more than a dozen instances in which he felt the Saints were deliberately trying to injure Favre.
Ultimately, that game became Exhibit A in a nearly two-year NFL investigation that found the Saints guilty of paying players to injure opponents.
The “Bountygate” scandal rocked the Saints with some of the harshest penalties in league history. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely (he was reinstated in 2013). Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year, while General Manager Mickey Loomis got eight games, and assistant coach Joe Vitt got six.
Favre said Friday that he still thinks about that game and that 12-4 season.
“What a great season,” he said, “But, more importantly, I miss the guys and look back fondly on my relationships with the entire team and fans.”
Does he think about “Bountygate” and whether the game might have gone differently without hits like the one in which Bobby McCray hit him below the knees while Remi Ayodele was hitting him high. Favre injured his ankle on the play, which the NFL later said should have been a penalty.
“I don’t think any of bounty,” said Favre, “but rather the plays I could or should have made that would have solidified our win.”
So, what about Sunday’s game, Brett? This time, it’s Drew Brees vs. Keenum, not Brees vs. Favre.
Favre, however, thinks the venue will matter more. Unlike eight years ago, the Vikings will be at home, not in the ear-splitting Superdome.
“The Vikings match up well, especially against the Saints offense,” Favre said. “The Saints will have some success, but I don’t think enough to get a win. The hostile environment will help tremendously.”
Favre congratulated the Vikings and “Coach Z” on a “great season.” Asked if he had any concerns about or advice for Keenum, the 48-year-old Favre delivered a vintage Favre response.
“No concerns,” he said, “and my advice is, ‘Enjoy the moment and turn it loose.’ ”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL